My Beliefs - - - We Can Do Better, part 2
by: Gordon Barthel
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We have the knowledge, we have the skill, we have the passion, we can do it.
If the irreligious community wants to make headway against traditional religious dogma, they need some clear beliefs and clear objectives that people can embrace and incorporate into their personal ideology. You can argue that people must have the liberty to decide what they want to believe, provided their convictions follow the rules of logic, reason and good evidence. The problem is that humanity tends to look at what others have and if we like it, we incorporate it into our own lives. And if we don’t like it, we politely ignore it, unless we happen to be fanatical about browbeating everybody into mindless conformity.
The bottom line is that most people are not going to figure it out for themselves because it is too overwhelming. It takes decades to read all the relevant material and another decade to figure out what it all means. And then one needs the imagination to assemble it into words or art. And if you look at history very few people have been able to imagine a completely new vision of life, reality and the universe. It is often far easier to adopt traditional views or criticize them.
Fortunately, Humanists have made some effort to advance an alternative. They have the Humanist Manifesto, three versions in fact. Some declarations are positive affirmations such as the universe is self-existing, not created.[American Humanist website, Humanist Manifesto I] Other declarations are predictable denials of traditional dogma. Either way, both the affirmations and the denials are clinical declarations that do little to inspire enthusiasm or elicit passion.
In the words of Maarten van den Driest, ‘we need more than logic and rationality.’ We need an emotional connection, we need passion.[Meditation 410: Reasonable Faith and Its Use]
We need something that ordinary people, can scrutinize and say, ‘I can buy that.’ We need something that will resonate with people. We need to answer the question, what would a reasonably intelligent human be willing to believe in this day and age? Going into the third millennium, what are reasonable beliefs that a sensible human might be willing to believe? We need a cultural understanding that supercedes the traditional creeds and doctrines.
You can argue that people must figure it out for themselves, but you cannot honestly expect the average human endowed with average intelligence to know everything about quantum physics, political science, eastern and western theology, biology, chemistry, history, anthropology, sociology, and so on and so forth. Great balls of fire, I forgot mathematics, the foundation of science, logic and rationality, quite possibly my least favourite subject.
Realistically, even a genius cannot possibly know everything about every subject. Even sensible scientists will defer to the authority of another scientist regarding matters from another discipline. In other words, the assertion that people must figure it out for themselves is somewhat absurd. If we were brutally honest, we would acknowledge they have figured it out simply by accepting traditional dogma because the alternative is essentially impossible for a finite intellect even if it is incredibly intelligent.
Perhaps we don’t like their choice, but we aren’t helping because we ain’t exactly offering a better alternative with constructive objectives and positive convictions.
Perhaps the aversion to advancing beliefs is the disdain for dogma, because beliefs can become dogmatic. This is a realistic concern but it cannot happen until a few other things occur. First and foremost, nothing can become dogmatic until it actually exists. The premise of original sin could never be dogmatic if it did not exist. If nobody ever conceived of this premise, then it could never become dogmatic. Since irreligion presently has no explicit beliefs, they are not in any danger of becoming dogma.
Second, it has to be an institutionalized belief, a culturally enshrined conviction. Russel’s teapot is not likely to become dogmatic because it is far from being a culturally accepted conviction. It may have some popularity but it is more of a sideshow attraction on the way to the temple.
Third, there has to be another premise or creed that could potentially supercede it. At this time, I seriously doubt the declaration, ‘I believe our planet is a beautiful blue ball circling the sun’ will become dogma because the only possible replacement is the flat earth theory. And reasonably intelligent people do not truly believe the flat earth theory.
Thus, the irreligious community is not likely to produce anything dogmatic unless they endeavour to promote the flat earth theory. Even religious fundamentalists would find that laughable and they would probably market it to prove the atheists, agnostics, secularist, et all had lost their grip on reality.
And so, without further ado, it is time to posit some fundamental convictions that any reasonably intelligent human might consider believing. First, I believe the earth is a beautiful blue globe rotating on its axis while simultaneously orbiting the sun. I also believe the moon is an eerily beautiful orb orbiting the earth.
Second, I believe every human, regardless of their intellectual aptitude, has the liberty to decide of their own accord what they are willing to believe and what they are not willing to believe. I also believe our beliefs should arise from the employment of logic, reason and contemporary evidence.
Assuming these are acceptable tenets for the irreligious community, they should become the cornerstone of a reasonably sound irreligious creed. And assuming they are logical and rational, then reasonably intelligent people should be able to say, ‘I can believe that.’ And the more people who say that, the closer we get to superceding old-fashioned theology.
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